“What the rich know that the poor typically don’t, is that the accumulation of wealth hinges as much or more on saving money than on making it in the first place.” — John Dilligent
If you asked several people what determines the price of gas at the pumps on any given day, you’d probably get a few different answers, although I’m sure most would respond with something along the lines of, “The price of a barrel of oil.” In my view that’s the wrong answer, but realizing that it’s also basically correct at the same time, let me redirect the question: “Given the price of gas hinges directly on the price of oil, what sets the current price for oil (and thus pump gas)?”
I’m sure a complete and authoritative answer might tend to get a little more complicated than I’d want to deal with here, but in my simplified view it’s basic supply and demand. As far as I am concerned, supply and demand — along with “consumer price resistance”, which is kinda sorta the same thing anyway — sets the current price of anything you could name and everything under the sun.
Allow me to prove my point, quickly and painlessly, and I’ll put it to you in the form of yet another question: “As high as gas is, and getting higher all the time, if every man, woman and child in this country stopped buying any overnight, what would the price of it do?”
It would plummet. Fall right off the nearest cliff. From what I hear there’s really no legitimate reason why we’re paying over 60c or so per gallon as it is, other than basic insatiable greed. But if you eliminated all demand for it, logically it’d just be worthless. You couldn’t give it away.
Okay, not practical. But logical. So, working backward from “logical” until we arrive at “practical”, would it be safe to assume that if every man, woman, and child in America cut their gasoline consumption in half, it would result in a fall in prices, and if they could only manage to trim 25% or so off their daily consumption it would at least halt the upward spiral?
I believe the answer is yes. Substantially decreasing demand while the supply remains the same should inevitably lower prices. For everyone. All the megacorporations price everything they sell us utilizing the principle of “consumer price resistance”. That means the price is as high as they can mark it up and still keep up their target sales volume. They know that any time they raise prices sales will automatically drop off to some degree, however slight. But as long as they don’t drop below a certain marginal percentage point they still come out ahead and the new higher price will remain affixed. If and when price increases result in sharply curtailed consumer spending, and they find themselves actually losing money as a result, guess what happens? They drop the price.
These crooks only continue to raise prices because we continue to buy at any cost. I don’t care what they may be telling us otherwise, because I’ve learned how they operate and if their lips are moving they’re lying. If and when we stop showing up at the pumps or at the very least sharply curtail our consumption, we’re going to hit them squarely in the pocketbook where it hurts, “voting with our dollars”, and they are going to drop those
artificially-inflated prices, rather than go broke. It’s just up to us to show a little moxy. Collectively we have all the clout in the world, but where we’ve gone wrong is accepting the lie that the price of gas falls somewhere beyond the basic laws of supply and demand.
But here’s where it gets even better, and I know you’ve already gone there ahead of me: I haven’t even factored in each consumer’s basic individual savings! We were simply discussing how to bring the collective price down — the price at the pump. Let’s say you’ve successfully managed to cut your daily (and annual) consumption by only 25%, but you’re the only wise old owl in the whole entire nation doing it. Doesn’t matter. You still save. If everyone else jumps on the bandwagon with you, you’ll just get a double whammy, that’s all — a extra added bonus savings. But if they don’t, so what? If you can manage to only stick just one dollar out of four that you would have normally spent on gas in the bank instead, at the end of one year you’ll have a tidy little sum, and be collecting interest on it too!
All you have to do to get there is simply buy less, and burn less. At the end of all that, I apologize if I’ve left anyone feeling gypped, that I didn’t somehow manage to pull a genie out of a bottle and give it away to you for free. As far as I’m concerned, there’s just no other way to get there from here. The only conceivable practical method of lowering both individual and collective fuel costs is simply to cut back on consumption and thus demand. The simple laws of economics will handle the rest.
What I am proposing is that we all put forth a concerted effort to make this happen. It’s a win-win proposition — good for ourselves, good for each other, and good for the environ-ment. We all automatically know everyone’s not going to do it. But if only a significant portion will, and will stick to it, then the result will exert a depressant effect on the price at the pump, I’m sure of it. It’s strictly a numbers game. And like I said, the worst that could happen if you try will be some extra cash in the bank at the end of the year.
So let’s make it our mission to trim our petroleum consumption this year by 50% — or 25% at the least, depending on our individual needs and situations. Someone running a business, suffering long commutes, etc. isn’t equal to, say, a college student living on campus and doing a lot of strictly recreational driving. But we should all do what we can to cut continuing demand and help drive those gas prices down. And we can begin today… right now.
In the following section we shall examine some practical — and hopefully relatively painless — methods through which we might achieve this thrifty and sensible goal…
The First Things NOT To Do
1) Follow the advice of well-intentioned idiots:
While researching this article I watched a number of YouTube videos. In the process I came across one that was highly-ranked and well-produced, by a seemingly sensible and knowledgeable guy on the subject of increasing your gas mileage. It featured a number of utilitarian tips which I recognized as having been drawn from the standard list promulgated by the likes of AAA, etc. But I guess in the hopes of “calling it his own”, he fluffed it up with a few assorted suggestions which came from who knows where, and which indicated to me not only a general lack of automotive knowledge, but basic common sense as well.
I’ll debunk three of these in the interest of convincing you to do your own thorough research on how to effectively increase your gas mileage and not just blindly adopt any questionable advice that comes along:
One of his suggestions was to “turn off your lights in the daytime” to save on gas. His theory was that your car’s belt-driven alternator — which provides power to the headlights — will run harder and/or longer if you do, resulting in decreased mileage.
Why you would have your lights on in the daytime only you would know, but whether you do or you don’t it wouldn’t affect your mileage. Your vehicle’s alternator is operated by means of a simple fixed pulley system — one attached to the alternator, the other to the engine’s crankshaft — connected by a “fan belt” or V-belt. Neither of the two pulleys involved have the capacity to clutch, freewheel, or “kick in and out”. What this means is that as long as your engine is running so is your alternator, and the only thing that can affect it in mechanical (and thus gas-saving) terms is the RPMs that your crankshaft is turning — that’s it. When you go faster it turns faster, when you go slower it turns slower, in a constant and direct ratio. There’s no way to affect that by how many or how few electrical accessories you may be operating at any given time. So it’s physically impossible to increase mileage by decreasing current draw.
Another ridiculous suggestion was to remove your vehicle’s spare tire, jack and lug wrench
in order to reduce weight and boost mileage.
Would this actually increase mileage? Yes. But the gains acquired would be so insignificant that any cost savings enjoyed wouldn’t be worth the risk of being left totally stranded and helpless every time you ran over a nail or a broken bottle, etc. AND having to call for a tow truck. In my view, the peace of mind of knowing that you’re covered in the event of a flat or blowout alone is worth the penny a gallon I might save by removing these items from my vehicle for the sake of weight reduction. Not to mention that a single wrecker bill incurred over a simple flat tire would easily wipe out the savings accrued by a decade of driving around without a spare tire and jack.
His third masterstroke of common (non)sense was to never fill your gas tank more than 1/4 full, also in the interest of weight reduction translating into increased MPG.
First off, while serious weight reduction can result in a lower fuel bill, it must be weighed against practicality. For the right person this suggestion could actually put a few pennies in the piggy bank — say someone living in a small town doing very limited driving. But for the rest of us it’s just impractical. I know it can take me up to two hours to get across my metropolitan area, and at least one during best-case-scenario conditions. If you threw in a serious back-up due to an accident, look out. You’ve got a day trip on your hands. My regular gas guzzler couldn’t even make that happen on a quarter tank of gas. Plus, you’ve got to consider how much time and gas money you’re investing in breaking down every fill-up into 4 separate trips to the pumps. Another unworkable suggestion, in my view.
So be careful who you listen to. Do your own research. And above all, exercise basic common sense.
2) Spend one plug nickel on any “wonder” MPG increaser:
I don’t care if it’s a pill, a liquid, or any type of device under the sun you could name. It also doesn’t matter who sells it, promotes it, or lends it their glowing testimonial. It’s all snake oil, and a total waste of hard-earned cash. Whatever it is, it’s already been debunked by everyone from the MythBusters to the EPA. None of it works. There are no exceptions.
Radically Reduce Fuel Costs Without Spending One Red Cent
Now that we’ve covered the two major don’ts, let’s take a look at how anyone can begin to save anywhere from a third to 100% of their annual fuel cost, utilizing tried and proven practical means. And you won’t have to spend one thin dime to get there.
1) Retrain yourself to drive moderately rather than agressively:
If you can do this and do it right, it will save you now and save you big — and cost you nothing to get there. Avoid jackrabbit starts and stops, weaving and passing. Accelerate easy and brake easy. Do the limit or under. Maintaining a slower but steady and constant speed from Point A to Point B is the goal. When you find yourself in the slow lane with all those about you flipping you off while gunning their engines to get around you, you’ve probably got the hang of it. Gas savings? Up to 37% depending on how you drove to begin with, 31% on average!
2) Just slow down:
This is a known monumental gas saver and particularly on the highway. For top savings you should be travelling at a constant 50-55 MPH. For every 5 MPH you increase your speed over 55, your gas mileage takes another swan dive all over again. Gas savings? Up to 14%, 12% on average.
3) Use your cruise control whenever possible:
This smoothes out your accelerator imput and eliminates nervous “surging”. It also quickly trains you to take the long view of the road rather than reacting to every little change in the traffic around you, probably the Number One “hypermiler” tip. Gas savings? Up to 14%, 7% on average.
4) Avoid excessive idling:
Over time this practice can save you some serious green stuff. The old addage that starting your engine up burns as much or more gas than sitting idled for awhile doesn’t apply to modern-day vehicles. Let it go, and if you predict you’ll be idling for more than a minute, shut your engine down ASAP. Gas savings? Up to 19% on average.
5) Keep your vehicle well-maintained:
Proper routine vehicle maintenance will not only make your vehicle safer and last longer, but will more than pay for itself at the gas pumps. One gunked-up spark plug could be robbing you of up to a third of your car’s performance and fuel economy. A lot of this maintenance can be done for free. Keeping your tires properly inflated and rotated can cost you nothing. A whole lot of air and fuel filters are designed to be taken off, cleaned and reused. And what I think is not commonly known is that under anything like normal operating conditions, your engine’s sparkplugs should last practically forever. just take them out every 6 months to a year, give them a thorough cleaning, and put them right back in. Google your car’s make and model to find an online forum through which you can better familiarize yourself with its mechanical aspects and pick up some money-saving tech advice.
6) Plan your route:
“Wandering around” to find something you’re looking for, taking a less efficient route to shopping or work, and zig-zagging back and forth across town to cover your stops all serve to drain your pocketbook bigtime in the era of high-priced gas. Every time you take your car out you should plan your trip as if you were going on vacation. Your your GPS or MapQuest to calculate the shortest, fastest, most efficient route to wherever you’re going. Cluster your stops. Eliminate stops altogether whenever practical. Are you driving to the post office or to UPS to mail something off when they’ll pick it up at your doorstep for free? Why? One way to eliminate stops completely is to buy in greater bulk — if you purchase twice as much of anything you consume regularly as you normally would, you just effectively eliminated the next trip you would have spent to pick more up.
7) Stop buying premium gas:
By all accounts, IF your vehicle’s manufacturer recommended 87 octane (regular unleaded) for use in its engine, you are throwing good money into a hole in the ground by burning premium instead. Any negligible benefit you may get out of it is highly outweighed by the cost differential. So if this is you, you can start saving significantly with your very next fill-up by simply switching from premium to regular unleaded.
8) If your vehicle is deisel-powered, switch to waste cooking oil:
There are scads of vehicles now available which are powered by deisel engines. Everything from compact cars to work trucks to luxury sedans. If your daily driver is one of these, you can totally eliminate your annual fuel bill while helping the environment by filling your tank with waste vegetable (cooking) oil — the type fast-food restaurants use to cook their french fries, for example — instead of deisel fuel. Traditionally they’ve had to pay to have someone get rid of this stuff, so it’s not hard to pick up for nothing. You’ll suffer an approximate 10% decrease in mileage gallon-for-gallon, but why should you care. You’re driving for free. The only consideration is you may have to suffer a one-time investment in some type of heating element to help prevent the oil from gelling up under lower temper-atures, depending on where you live, and you’ll need some suitable containers to haul it and store it in. Gas savings? 100%.
9) Trade your gas guzzler in on a fuel miser:
Up ’til now all the suggestions were meant to be applied to you and your daily driver. But if your daily driver just happens to be a Hummer or a PowerStroke, trading it in or selling it outright to pick up the latest gas-sipping hybrid can provide you with annual fuel savings of somewhere between 80%- 90% — and that ain’t hay. By the end of the year you could buy your own fan club to tell you how cool you look, if it’s really that important. This move can also save you big on payments, financing and insurance, since the hybrid’s only a third to half the cost of the high-status gas-guzzling wondertoys. And if all that is astonishingly insufficient to pry you out of your Blingmobile, consider this: the super rich generally wouldn’t be caught dead in one. As CEO of Standard Oil of New Jersey, John D. Rocke-feller walked to work every day carrying a sack lunch. Warren Buffet, Sam Walton, and Ross Perot acheived their wealth following similar approaches. And that’s just the short list.
10) Run a home-based business or telecommute:
Eliminating all work-related fuel costs can translate into gigantic annual savings. You can run a successful home-based business today and never leave your house. But if that’s impractical or undesirable for you for whatever reason, check into telecommuting. You wouldn’t believe how many people are doing it today — scads. You may not be able to swing it 100%, thus never having to report it to punch the clock, but even if you could get your boss to agree to two days of telecommuting per work week, your annual fuel savings would really add up.
Up to now, all the tips have focused on “how you live”, using the term loosely. But where you live can have a dramatic impact on both day-to-day convenience and fuel-related expenditures. If you’re stuck with a two-hour commute back and forth to work each day you may want to seriously consider relocating close to your job. If you’re a good scout you should be able to find appropriate quarters — no matter what your status or lifestyle — somewhere within a three to five mile radius at most, and possibly within just a few blocks. And if you manage to pull of the latter coup, you could conceivably eliminate your work-related fuel bill altogether, by walking, biking, or having a co-worker drop by and pick you up on the way in. If for whatever reason you can’t bring yourself closer to your job, maybe you can bring the job closer to you, by transferring to another office, division or subsidiary within the same company, or perhaps just changing-out companies entirely.
12) Let go of your car completely:
Do you really need it? Depending on your location and your lifestyle, if your primary concern isn’t “keeping up with the Jones’s”, then you may not. Getting rid of your car completely can free up a significant volume of cash each month, particulary if you have finance payments. Kissing the monthly car note, insurance bill, and the cost of gas, oil, and any vehicle-related maintenance good-bye forever is a savory thought. And if you own your car outright, putting it up for sale could bring in a nice little windfall. You could apply that toward a decent little 50cc scooter and still never walk a day of your life. They don’t have to be tagged, titled, or insured. And you don’t need a license of any variety to operate them out on the road.